Idaho fisheries managers are positioning potential structures for the spring Chinook season

Idaho fisheries managers are positioning potential structures for the spring Chinook season

LEWISTON — Fisheries managers expect about 8,000 spring chinook to return to the Clearwater River this year.

This will produce a modest share of the harvest of about 1,360 for tribal and non-tribal hunters. Last year, the Clearwater River’s harvest quota started at 2,700 but rose to more than 3,300 when runoff bypassed the forest.

It produced a seven-day-a-week fishing season with a daily bag limit of one adult fish on the Clearwater River and its tributaries, with the exception of the North Fork which was open four days a week.

According to a harvest size matrix developed with input from anglers, this year’s forecast calls for fishing four days a week with a limit of one adult fish. The department asks fishers whether they support this fishery design and their feelings on a proposal to change harvest distribution goals.

The department tries to manage the season so that 30% of the harvest takes place between Lewiston and Sherrillin Bridge. 20% from Sherilyn to Orofino; 15% on North Fork; 11% from Orofino to Koxia; 12% on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River between Koskia and Lowell; and 12% on the South Fork of Clearwater.

Hatchery production of chinook has increased from 4 million to 6 million, and more of those young fish are being released into the lower end of the basin, which is also seeing more angling, said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. . an effort. To help ensure the state reaches its harvest share, something that did not happen last year, the department is proposing to increase the harvest goal between Lewiston and Orofino from 30% to 35% and on the North Fork from 15% to 20%. . The harvest target from Cherrylane to Orofino will drop to 19%. The ratio of Orofino to Koskia will decrease to 8%, the Middle Fork to 10%, and the South Fork to 8%.

“Remember, we’re not releasing fewer fish there,” DuPont said of the upper end of the basin. “We’re actually releasing more fish into the lower river. And even though these lower areas of the river may get more opportunities, the areas upriver don’t get fewer opportunities.”

Fast river

The rapid river run through the Lower Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers will have a harvest quota of about 2,510, based on pre-season forecasts. Last year, pre-season forecasts dictated a harvest quota of about 3,800, but poor yields saw that number drop to 1,921.

The run was stopped at Slide Rapid due to high flows. As the water level dropped, a wall of fish broke upriver. The fishermen were quickly exhausted and then the harvest quota was slightly exceeded and the fishery was closed. Those who fished in the lower Salmon River received a larger share than those in the Little Salmon River. The department tries to manage the fishery so that the harvest is split approximately 50/50 between the two rivers

DuPont said this year’s run is strong enough to suggest a seven-day-a-week season with a maximum of one adult fish, based on a harvest size matrix. He and management are asking hunters if they support this season structure or if they would prefer to start with a more conservative season with hunting open four days a week. Doing so will slow down the harvest and may result in a longer season. It will also help the management to distribute the harvest equally between the two rivers.

The department is asking anglers whether the goal of dividing the harvest equally between the Little Salmon River and the Lower Salmon River should be maintained, or whether the harvest should be split 55/45 with the larger share going to the Lower Salmon. The change will more closely reflect where hunter effort is focused.

The former lower salmon fishing boundary extended from the Rice Creek Bridge below Cottonwood to the Vinegar Creek boat ramp about 25 miles up the Riggins River. DuPont said the department recommends closing the river for harvest between Shorts Bar and Vinegar Creek. Doing so would protect harvest opportunities for fisheries on the South Fork of the Salmon River and the Upper Salmon River.

Parker can be reached at ebarker@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.

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